Friday, September 9, 2011

My adventure with traditional publishing begins

In early August, I attended the Willamette Writers Conference and pitched my novel, Fog of Dead Souls, to three agents. I'd chosen them because they represent authors writing thrillers and women's fiction and my book is a hybrid of both. If you've read this blog a while, you know that two years ago at the conference, I pitched my first novel and got very discouraged as I was chided by two of the three agents for not writing to genre (my women's fiction novel has a male protagonist). I didn't know enough at the time to just think that these were not the right agents for my book. I took it all too personally.

This time I went in with different expectations. I was well prepared, had written a great pitch, which I practiced and practiced and practiced. And I approached the agents not with hat in hand but looking for a champion. I actually said that to them: I'm looking for someone to champion this great book and I'm wondering if that's you.

Two were enthusiastic about the story; all three wanted pages. I worked on the manuscript another two weeks, incorporating changes from a police expert, and sent it off Aug 22. On Aug 29 Andrea Somberg, the most enthusiastic of the agents and who had asked for 50 pages, asked for the rest of the manuscript. On Sept 1, I got an email telling me she loved it and wanted  to talk. Last Friday we started the agent/client conversation, Sunday I said yes, and now the ball is rolling.

I was high as a kite on the good news for days. Now I'm settling in to understand the contract and today I'm working with the revisions she wants (minor and not deal breakers). She's also reading my memoir and novel #1 and I'm thrilled to see what can happen next.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Writer's block vs. writer's blank

I've been thinking this weekend about why I don't plunge back into the new novel. Do I have writer's block? Do I have writer's blank? What's the difference?

I suffer very little from writer's block, which I define as a psychological state of discouragement, boredom, or restlessness. I suffer very little from this perhaps because I keep a variety of projects going. I enjoy writing short fictional prompts and anything can serve as a prompt; a line of poetry, a physical object, a phrase overheard in conversation, a band name on a poster on a telephone pole. I enjoy writing poetry and keep a running list of poetry subjects. And I can always read about writing. I count that as writing work because it not only keeps me informed but usually energizes me to try out some new ideas of my own.

Writer's blank on the other hand is when we don't know where to take the piece next. And I think that's what's happened to me on the current project. My practice is to always leave an obvious next step in my writing so that when I sit down to work on it, I can move right in. Sometimes that's an unfinished scene, sometimes it's a list of revisions or expansions to work on, sometimes it's a kernel of an idea for what is next.

Unfortunately, this isn't what happened the last time I was on writing retreat. I finished the chapters I had in mind and I had one day of retreat left. Knowing I was coming home to a full-tilt work week, I took that last day off and didn't make any notes to myself or leave myself any ideas. So I'm stuck in writer's blank and will need to remedy that with a list of possible new chapters, some verbal character sketches, maybe some discussion with a trusted writing colleague. And I'll start with reading what I have written.